Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pontificatory Palace, etc.

The Palace at 2:00 a.m.
menu du jour:

1. small pontification
of the Beggar Queen,
pontificated over laundry--
possibly ridiculous,
as is the wont of
pontifications

2. poem with God and also
an unexpected zipper

3. lunar Rilke, without glowworms

not 4. I am desolate: we are all out of the wild boar pâté de campagne.

yes 4. haywire credit
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1.
In between bouts of laundry, I’ll be working on a longish novella today. This morning I’ve been mulling about how few people there are who see a thing whole for what it is, and not for how it deviates from some set template of the thing—a “poem,” a “story,” a “novel”—already implanted. This lack of freedom goes for writers and readers, editors and reviewers.

And that idea of a template… How quickly one settles and solidifies in the mind! A story can be perfectly satisfactory—indeed, superior of its “kind”—and yet not fully satisfy because it has not gone beyond the maker’s own prior sense of what “story” is and can be. In a particular story, that may mean that he has not gone beyound his mental construct of what a character is, what a shape is, what causality is: any number of elements.

Those leaps beyond what has been imagined in the writer’s past and into some newness carry with them blood and vigor and electricity that convey fresh life to the story. The little trodden world already created in past stories is a world where the writer is entirely too cosy. The inner landscape of the writer herself needs to be transformed before the work gains newness of life. And I imagine that is true in all the arts, whether one is a painter or choreographer or poet or some other permutation of the artist.

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2. NeoVictorian / Cochlea just picked up the only poem in the universe that contains both God and a zipper, "Dream of a Waltz with God." Perhaps there is another... And yet I doubt it. If there is, it couldn't possibly fool around with waltz rhythms as well. I gather that after print publication, it will appear on the website.

The above makes me feel virtuous, because I finally sent out a couple of those little envelopes stuffed with poems--something that I detest doing. Needful for a book-to-come, yes, but an annoying frittering of time.

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3. From today's reading--

Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke,
selected and translated by Edward Snow
(New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986)

Forget, forget, and let us live now
only this, how the stars pierce through
cleared nocturnal sky; how the moon's whole disk
surmounts the gardens. We've sensed so long already
how the darkness breeds many mirrors: how a gleam
takes shape, a white shadow in the radiance
of night. But now let us cross over
and invest this world where
everything is lunar--

Paris, early summer 1909

And isn't it lovely to be Rilke in 1909 at this particular moment, when fragrance is rising from the gardens and a single star is jumping a hurdle and falling, falling, falling with a splash that breaks up the moon caught in a distant fountain?
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4. The photograph of book browsers at Haye on Wye was taken by Anne Koth of Dresden, Germany, www.sxc.hu.

9 comments:

  1. I can't even think of a poem with a ZIPPER in it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are doubtless many mundane little poems with coffee cups and dogs and a bored assistant professor who has a zipper.

    But this is the first, the very first to be a poem with God and a zipper. It is joyful. It has waltz rhythms here and there. Doubtless it is the start of a new thing in the universe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Marly,

    First, did you get a check/address I sent? The check has not cleared and I fear may be lost in the mail. If so I will re-try.

    Also, I love the picture in this post. I was looking alas, at the bookshelves in my living room last night. Two are my spouses and two I possess. Mine are brimming with books two layers deep. I am thinking, "Ah, Should I thin the books or just get more bookshelves.?" The next thought being "Where shall I put more bookshelves?" Now I know. While my palace does not possess a wall to prop bookshelves against, I have many trees. The only down side I see to this is dampness, and bugs.

    And I love the thought of a poem with God and a zipper. I have thought that God should provide women with zippers to bear children, but have not yet put that into a poem. Where is this poem with God and a zipper????

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, rats.

    I bet it's at the post office. I'll hike down there tomorrow, honest. I'd given up on you! I'm sorry! Yours will be the last book promotion package to go out.

    You'll have to wait on that poem. It's not out anywhere yet.

    Yes, out-of-doors would be helpful for those with too many books. I've realized that the gigantic old cupboard that we rebuilt in my office is now in the way of getting a new washing machine into the laundry. Horrors!

    Heard from any NCCATers? Should be a new baby by now...

    ReplyDelete
  5. How fitting the Rilke poem is with its white lunar radiance (and 'darkness breeds many mirrors' is a wonderful line) since I've just finished a scene ending with the moon laying luminous bars on the floor of the master bedroom of 11 Leatherstocking St. after an intimate moment turns silly with talk of lecherous ghosts in the corner, all brought about by a peek back at ancient correspondence.

    Thanks for the 1909 Parisian Rilke.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm confused about who wrote the poem you mentioned. At first, I thought it was you. Was it? Who then, if not? Richard Wilbur might have both---he wrote of laundry and power mowers. Speaking of laundry. I'm excited to think of your going at it literarily, whatever the template or form.
    I thought of you last night ( your moonflowers suggestion)as I surveyed my baby garden under the waxing moon--all the little sprouts were backlit and rinsed in a ghostly wash (laundry again?) and I wished for the zillionth time that I could render this. I did a couple of night garden paintings a while back--- focus was metaphorical rather than representational.
    But enough about me. Oh, I've just read the other comments. I see I'll have to wait, too, on the zipper creator's identity.
    Wash on, write on, oh queen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Laura,

    I am sadly addicted--no pictures on Laurelines yesterday! And yes, I'm still expecting a night garden. Did you plant moonflowers? I've got the confidence that the night garden will appear (take the Rilke as a hint!); you've got the brush. My "background" is no longer the Paul Green cabin (great light on the roof, by the by) but the safflowers...

    Yes, that was my poem. I'm rotten about sending out. I really despise the act of stuffing envelopes and providing Sase and notes and so on. However, I like Wilbur very much. He did write splendidly of laundry, too. If the N & O had asked what book of American poems I liked best from the past 25 years instead of what American fiction, I might well have said a collected Wilbur. He also wrote the best carol of the past 25 years.

    A stable-lamp is lighted
    Whose glow shall wake the sky;
    The stars shall bend their voices,
    And every stone shall cry.
    And every stone shall cry, etc.

    Jim,

    Just think of all that imaginary frolic and spookiness going on just a hop, skip, and broad jump away from me! I know a number of families on Leatherstocking--17 & 15, anyway. Mike thinks he remembers 11 and who lives there now, but I can't quite picture it. I'll have to jaunt by some time.

    Funny how much serendipity there is in writing--or how much one creates while doing it.

    Reading your hortative inscription daily? Hugging the dear old grindstone? You must be--having just finished a scene.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's on the left as you go from Chestnut toward Railroad Ave., Colonial revival, white clapboards, green shutters, green & white canvas awning over side porch. At least that's how it still looks in my mind, and now I'm not even sure it's 11, not that it matters to the story.

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  9. Mike says it's white, so that's probably the one--I'll saunter by soon. I somehow thought of one with a big Dutchman's pipe vine, but maybe that's on the other side. Would've looked today but was hither and yon, including errands in Oneonta. What excitement. Tomorrow: the third grade does "Charlotte's Web," first thing in the morning.

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.